Endings – How Important Are They?


endLast week, I talked about book openings in one of my posts. This post talks about the other end of your book, the ending. It will briefly discuss the types of endings and the importance of choosing the right one for your book.

Just_Hanging_AroundLeaving the reader hanging – is it a good idea?

Many sources will tell you not to end your book with a cliffhanger. The reader needs some satisfaction or a happy ending to complete their reading experience. In my opinion, the answer to this is not quite that simple.

As someone who has written a series, I strive to make each book capable of being read as a standalone story. There is, however, a backstory arc for my main character that continues from book to book. What I like to do is resolve the current story within the book but provide a lead in to the next book.

There are some renowned novelists that are famous for vague endings in their novels. One that I’m familiar with is Elmore Leonard who is known for abruptly ending his novels and leaving the reader to contemplate where the characters ended up or how things turned out for them.

booksleepOver-telling the ending

Did you ever read a story where the author finishes the book with a lengthy epilogue explaining in great detail what happens to each character? Did you ever read a book up to the high intensity climax and the author just abruptly ends the story without giving any hint to what happens to the characters?

Both of these reading experiences can be frustrating for different reasons. The frustration caused by the abrupt ending is self-explanatory. Over-telling, however, can be just as annoying. Very often, the author disappoints the reader by giving a resolution or future outcomes for their characters that is less than satisfying to the reader.

We’ve discussed the opening and the ending. The next logical step is to discuss the middle of your book, arguably the most troublesome part of finishing a book

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

 

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42 thoughts on “Endings – How Important Are They?

  1. Some interesting information for us to chew on, Don. It reminded me of how annoying I found the end of JK Rowling’s last Harry Potter book. She added a little bit about what happens to the trio and I would have preferred to have this left to my imagination. That being said, I found the whole last book rather drawn out and irritating.

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  2. Like you, I write a series and am guilty of the unresolved ending crime. The main points are tied up, but it is definitely open-ended. The ending of the last book was a deliberate anti-climax, simply because I thought it would an unexpected way to end, which has divided readers – some seeing the humour in it and others finding it unfulfilling. Either way, I like to be a little different.

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  3. A good topic, Don! I guess some mystery and moral must end the book for Readers to ponder on for months. πŸ™‚ There are other cute tricks too: for example, to suggest the Reader to make the final themselves. and leave some empty pages for that. Though you must be a completely innovative, pioneer writer to make experiments of the kind.

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  4. I dislike cliffhangers when you are forced to read the next book in a series to complete the story in the first book. I don’t mind a simple lead-in to the next book in a series Don if the first story wraps up. I don’t mind the author telling how the characters end up. I do think it works better in a move. πŸ™‚ — Suzanne

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  5. Pingback: Endings – How Important Are They? β€” Author Don Massenzio – I Suck at Writing

  6. Pingback: Friday Roundup – 18th August | Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

  7. Interesting post and discussion, Don. As a fantasy writer/reader, I’ve noticed that many series are more like serials – they are meant to be read in order and the books have a resolution of some arcs, but often there isn’t really a solid “ending.” The Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, and Game of Thrones books are great examples. I think the most important thing in these cases to make it clear to the reader what they’re getting into. πŸ™‚

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  8. For myself, a true cliffhanger–a la the old Perils of Pauline serials, where Pauline is tied to the railroad tracks and you can see the train approaching, and suddenly it’s “tune in next time”–will make me so angry, I probably won’t ever read that author again. There is a way to have a satisfying resolution for at least some characters or plot issues, and yet leave the reader wanting to read more about those people or that world. That’s what I try to do with my own books, and hopefully it works.

    I will always wrap up the mystery, provide resolution to the main problem, and give a Happily Ever After to the people who’ve worked for it. But I will then use my last chapter or a VERY brief epilogue to set up/whet their appetites for the next book in the series. I want them to say, “Yay! I love how this book ended for John and Mary, and what a surprise to find out who the ax murderer was, but who is this new person watching from the back of the crowd as the fire is put out?” Hopefully at that point, they’re happy, and have rushed right over to Amazon to pick up Book 2. (Or at least made a note to get it when it comes out.)

    Even in an epic fantasy, where the overarching plot of fighting for the survival of a kingdom may span several books, the immediate battles should be finished, and plans begun for the next step (or something similar) before that book concludes. At least, that’s what it takes to get me to continue reading the series. Don’t leave my hero/heroine tied to the railroad tracks, please. If you do, I will “write” my own ending in my head, and I won’t be back to read yours.

    Great post, Don, on a subject that can have a huge impact on readership, I think, though of course, each reader is sure to have their own opinion. πŸ™‚

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      • I’ve never included an entire first chapter, mostly because I don’t have it written by that point, but I have included the opening scene. For instance, a ringing telephone, and a brief conversation designed to make readers want to hear the rest. When I’m reading, I love getting a hint of what the next books is going to focus on, but that cliffhanger thing? Nuh-uh. Not for me. πŸ˜€ Going to reblog this one, Don. I think it’s something writers should consider very carefully. πŸ™‚

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  9. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:
    A very interesting conversation about cliffhangers going on at Don Massenzio’s blog. I recommend checking it out. I also recommend thinking long and hard about the advisability of ending your book on a cliffhanger, but that’s just my personal opinion. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. OH, I like the idea of adding that chapter later on, Don! Never thought of that, probably because I’m so awful at finding time to market intelligently. I spend every minute writing like a thing possessed. I need to dedicate a day each week to ideas like this one, and other ways to improve my marketing. I also need a VA to take over some of the things like this, that don’t require a more personal touch. So glad I found time today to check out my favorite blogs. πŸ™‚ Thanks.

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      • I do include links to all my books in the Author’s Notes section of my novels, but that extra touch of adding the first chapter to the next book of the series is such a good idea. And now that you’ve mentioned it, I realize I should have thought of it long ago. *head smack* But I’ve got it now, thanks! πŸ™‚

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  11. Excellent post, Don. I hopped over from Marcia’s blog.:)

    I personally do not like cliffhanger endings, and if I know a book ends that way I will normally skip reading it. This is especially true of series books. On the flip side, I LOVE series books that can be read as standalones, with some threads continuing throughout–especially the backstory arc for the main character as you mentioned. I follow a series of that nature that is now on book 15 or 16, and hope it never stops.

    As for epilogues with flash forwards to the future, I like them, but prefer they not be overly long.

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  12. Pingback: Endings – How Important Are They? – A.Fae

  13. Hi Don, I’ve also dropped in via Marcia’s, and her opinions and mine on this topic are something we’ve ‘discussed’ before. I put ‘discussed’ in quotes, because we feel exactly the same – I get really angry if I get to the end of a book to find no resolution at all. Cliff hangers make my blood boil!
    I write epic fantasy series, and for me it’s crucial that each book can stand alone as well as function as part of the ongoing story arc. I think anything less than that is both cheating and short changing the reader, and is not a mark of a good writer.
    I know some people don’t feel this way, but for me, this is how I feel about it.
    It’s always a great topic to raise!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Working on the Middle (Muddle) of your Novel. | Author Don Massenzio

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